Abhiññā: The 6 ‘higher powers’, or supernormal knowledge’s, consist of 5 mundane lokiya powers attainable through the utmost perfection in mental concentration samādhi and one supra-mundane lokuttara power attainable through penetrating insight vipassanā, i.e. ceasing of all mental fermentation āsavakkhaya see: āsava, in other words, realization of Arahatship or Nobility. They are: 1: magical powers iddhi, 2: divine ear dibba-sota, 3: penetration of the minds of others ceto-pariya-ñāna, 4: remembrance of former existences pubbe - nivāsānussati, 5: divine eye dibba-cakkhu, 6: ceasing of all fermentation āsavakkhaya. The stereotype text met with in all the 4 Sutta-collections e.g. D. 34; M. 4, 6, 77; A. III, 99; V, 23; see: XV, 9 and Pug. 271, 239 is as follows:
1: Now, O Bhikkhus, the Bhikkhu enjoys the various magical powers iddhi, such as being one he becomes many, and having become many he again becomes one. He appears and disappears. Without being obstructed he passes through walls and mountains, just as if through the air. In the earth he dives and rises up again, just as if in the water. He walks on water without sinking, just as if on the earth. Cross-legged he floats & flies through the air, just like a winged bird. With his hand he touches the sun and moon, so mighty & giant. Even up to the Brahma-world can he master his body.
2: With the divine ear dibba-sota he hears sounds both divine and human, whether far or near.
3: He knows the minds of other beings parassa ceto-pariya-ñāna, of other persons, by penetrating & embracing them with his own mind. He knows the greedy mind as greedy and the not-greedy one as not greedy; knows the hating mind as hating and the not-hating one as not hating; knows the confused mind as confused and the not-confused one as not confused; knows the contracted min, the distracted, the developed mind and the undeveloped one, the surpassable and the unsurpassable mind, the concentrated and the unconcentrated mind, the freed and the unfreed mind.
4: He remembers many prior existences pubbe - nivāsānussati, such as one birth, two, three, four and five births; 10; 100, 1000; hundred thousand births; remembers many expansions and dissolutions of universes: ‘There I was this, such name I had… and vanishing from there I entered into existence somewhere else… and vanishing from there I again reappeared here.’ Thus he remembers, always together with all the details and peculiarities many former existences.
5: With the divine eye dibba-cakkhu = yathā - kammūpaga - ñāna or cutūpapāta-ñāna, the pure one, he sees beings vanishing and reappearing, low and noble ones, beautiful and ugly ones, he sees how beings are reappearing according to their actions (see: kamma ) ’These beings, indeed, followed evil ways in bodily actions, words and thoughts, insulted the noble ones, held evil & wrong views, and according to their evil views they acted. At the dissolution of their body, after death, they have appeared in the lower worlds, in painful states of existence, in the world of suffering, even in hell. Those other beings, however, who are endowed with good behaviour, have appeared in happy state of existence, even in a divine world.
6: Through the ceasing of all fermentation āsavakkhaya even in this very life he enters into the possession of liberation of mind, liberation through understanding, after having himself understood and directly realized it.
4-6 appear frequently under the name of the ‘threefold higher knowledge’ te - vijjā. They are, however, not a necessary condition for the attainment of sainthood arahatta, i.e. of the sixth abhiññā.
Vis.M XI-XIII gives a detailed explanation of the 5 mundane higher powers, together with the method of attaining them.
In connection with the 4 kinds of progress see: patipadā, abhiññā means the ‘comprehension’ achieved on attainment of the paths and fruitions